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November 25, 2008

How much can you express in three words?

I thank you.
Gratitude is an exquisite form of courtesy. People who enjoy good relationships are those who don’t take daily courtesies for granted. They are quick to thank others for acts of kindness, whether it be holding a door open or helping finish a project.

Maybe you’re right.
Stephen Carter in his 1998 book Civility has a list of 15 rules. One is
'Civility requires that we listen to others with knowledge of the possibility that they are right and we are wrong.' Certainly these words can help diffuse a tense conversation and calm emotions.

Let me help.
The best of coworkers see a need and try to fill it. They often don’t wait to be asked. It could be taking over some work or the need to talk through a problem.

Please forgive me.
We all make mistakes … act without thinking … speak when we should be silent. Never be ashamed to admit missteps and ask for forgiveness.

Significant messages can come in three words. They enrich relationships.

Happy Thanksgiving.

(These three word sentences work just as well with friends and family as they do with coworkers.)

November 20, 2008

A transparent meeting vs. an opaque meeting invitation

A transparent meeting invitation would have
An agenda or stated purpose so you could arrive prepared
A list of those invited if not a routine meeting
Relevant documents or information

With an opaque meeting invitation, you would have
A vague or no notion of the purpose of the meeting
Perhaps not know who was invited

Interestingly enough, people with both types of invitations could be at the same meeting. Some know what the meeting is really about, some don’t until the meeting is underway a time.

My experiences with opaque meeting invitations are often – surprise – you’re under attack individually or as a member of a group. Uncivil…cowardly…and heavy-handed.

Transparency includes good communication, sharing information, honesty and the desire to tap the value each person can bring to work.

I really like the topic of transparency. Do you have suggestions or questions to continue the topic of transparency?

November 18, 2008

Transparency: Let it be real, not the next buzzword

The word ‘transparency’ as it is emerging today came to me via Kevin Gamble, national eXtension’s information technology leader. It is not a buzzword to Kevin. He believes in open source software, in putting the thinking of the eXtension organization out for people to view. I’ve heard Kevin talk about how difficult it is to convince extension folks across the country to share their work—to put it out in the open, to be transparent. The image I have is a small child clutching a stuffed animal to his chest and saying, “It’s mine, all mine.”

I’ve been thinking about transparency and advocating it. Actually I don’t feel I’m making many inroads in my workplace with that. There’s my alternate life in church work and I thought I was doing a pretty good job communicating to members far more than others who’d held my position, distributing responsibility widely, seeking out and listening to opinions, pushing for teenagers in important positions. And then one member said we don’t communicate across the six boards enough; we don’t know what others are doing. That says to me—those who should be sharing information are not doing it well. I need to explain and encourage communication flow. I need to seek new ways to be more transparent.

Last night Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard, spoke at the Memorial Union. In the middle of her speech on leadership and power, she talked about business leaders needing to agree to transparency, of being accountable to not only shareholders but customers, employees and suppliers.

That’s when it struck me.
This is going to be a new buzzword. I so want it to be real even if it’s not in our nature, even if it’s not easy.

People will put their heart and soul into projects when they understand how their work fits into overall goals, when they feel their opinions are valued, when they are part of the building process, when they know what others are doing. That is transparency. It is civility.

Do not speak of transparency
unless you are willing to let go of that stuffed animal.

Kevin Gamble’s Oct. 5 post, Defining the freerange enterprise, in which he lists not just transparency but radical transparency.

November 12, 2008

How social media = civility

The hallmark of social media or Web 2.0 tools is inviting participation and conversation.

Monologue gives way to dialog
Instead of putting out information to educate, it’s blogs, YouTube, social bookmarking sites --- tools that invite comments and questions. It’s listening to the problems, challenges and ideas of citizens so organizations know where to focus their efforts.

PR 2.0 written by Brian Solis on the Future of Communications – A Manifesto for Integrating Social Media into Marketing says “The best companies will let go of their message and control of gatekeeping in social realms and trust it with their employees to carry forward. We need leaders. We need champions. Community managers keep the company ear to the ground to determine where the conversations are taking place and where they should participate. They are the front lines of listening and engaging in conversations across the Web.”

“Social media is about speaking with, not “to” or “at” people.”
Messages do not = conversations. Social media is interest in relationships. It’s about helping customers succeed in their businesses and improving their personal lives more than about your company or organization.

It’s a matter of civility, respect for others, listening, cultivating relationships. Getting information about your organization out to the public doesn’t happen just when the marketing, public relations and communications people send out messages. All people in the organization are ambassadors.

PR 2.0: The Future of Communication Starts Here, blog by Brian Solis
Includes free downloadable ebooks

November 05, 2008

This is a rare opportunity to observe leadership

Leadership and management are not synonymous terms. Leader and president of the United States are not synonymous terms although they are used that way. I’ve observed and believed since before the Iowa caucuses that Barack Obama is, above all, a leader.

Leaders capture the heart and soul of others.
Leaders are terrific communicators sharing and explaining goals and direction to inspire others. Leaders understand the history of how we got to where we are today. They observe and listen. They have ideas and listen to the ideas of others without feeling threatened. Leaders empower others who then have a spirit of independence and can work to their full capacity.

People follow leaders voluntarily. Leadership happens at every level of the organization. Leadership is a condition in which energy and resources of people are intentionally focused on common goals in a concerted and productive manner.

Measures of a leader’s greatness focus on the difficulty of the objectives attained, creating and sustaining a productive environment, and the outcomes.

In a community or organization with leaders, things get done.
Visions are conveyed and believed. Goals are met. There’s inspiration and hope, commitment.

Leadership starts with self-confidence, courage, perspective and civility. Humility and integrity are the cornerstones of leadership.

A healthy society has centers of authority and leadership that do not necessarily derive from political or economic power but from cultural and spiritual values.

Mahatma Gandhi, Indian spiritual and political leader (1869-1948), worked for the rights of the depressed and disinherited classes. He had no personal greed for power but cared rather for the welfare of the people, using persuasion instead of violence, never allowing expediency to justify a deviation from the truth.

Nearly anyone can become a leader.
Studies of leaders and leadership identify a daunting array of characteristics and skills. Research makes it clear that no particular personality type or style is a guarantee of leadership success.

President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech had so many hallmarks of leadership and civility. These stood out to me, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”…“And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.” I believe the Obama family wore red and black---to begin that very night to embrace all those who live in the United States.

This is a historic time in which we can all learn a great deal about leadership. My greatest hope is that the qualities of leadership filter into our companies and our organizations because we see it on a national level.

Good reading
5 CEOs’ best leadership tips

by John McKee, March 27, 2008

Have We Learned Anything About Leadership Development?
The Conference Board Review® Article, May/June 2008

Transcript: Obama's acceptance speech

November 04, 2008

Has this campaign been blighted by incivility?

To celebrate our national election today, I invite you to read the latest column by Michael Brannigan, Chair in Ethics and Moral Values at the College of Stain Rose in Albany, New York.

Michael asks the question I used for the headline of this post. I particularly like his point….
‘Civility reaches into the gut level of who we are and how we interact. It will always be tested through conflict and disagreement.’

Rather than discussing politics at work today (it would be better to do that tomorrow), treat yourself to Brannigan’s column ‘Civility should be the core issue of each political campaign’ from the Oct. 26 Times Union: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=733233